I'm trying to translate an English sentence into Japanese , but i got some problems and confuse which should i use between が or は . So please tell me which is the correct one .

  1. ジョンさんは休日にいつも東京にいる。
  2. ジョンさんが休日にいつも東京にいる。

Also 1. 彼は傷口にそっと触れる。 2. 彼が傷口にそっと触れる。

  • 1
    Short answer would be, you would use は if you already know John is the person always in Tokyo, and が if you are identifying that he is the one in Tokyo. Jul 31, 2017 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


I think one way to see the difference would be...

  1. ジョンさん休日にいつも東京にいる。
    lit. As for John / Speaking of John, he is usually in Tokyo on holidays. (and someone else among the people we're talking about may also be in Tokyo.)

  2. ジョンさん休日にいつも東京にいる。
    (Of all the people we are talking about) It is John (not someone else) who is usually in Tokyo on holidays. / John is the one who is usually in Tokyo on holidays.

The は is the topical/thematic は. Sentence 1 is usually said when ジョンさん is the topic of the conversation, i.e. ジョンさん has already been mentioned before this sentence is uttered, or the interlocuter(s) is/are expecting ジョンさん to be probably mentioned.

The が is the exhaustive が. Unlike wa, the subject particle ga nominates its referent as the sole satisfier of the predicate (quoted from here). So you'd usually say like ジョンさん(東京に)いる (It is John who is in Tokyo) as a reply to a question 誰が東京にいますか?

  1. 傷口にそっと触れる。
  2. 傷口にそっと触れる。

If this line is from a story/novel, then the present form 触れる is the historical present (史的現在). Both sentences are grammatically correct, and one would be preferred over the other depending on the context.
You'd tend to use 彼は when 彼 has just done some other things or has just been mentioned, whereas you'd tend to use 彼が when you want to specifically say that it's 彼, not someone else, who does that action. (Thanks to @Sjiveru)
が also tends to be used in relative clauses and subordinate clauses, e.g. 「彼傷口にそっと触れると、彼女は~~」「彼傷口に触れた瞬間」
The は can also be the contrastive は. You can use the は to contrast 彼 (or 彼's action) with someone else (or their action). E.g. 「彼女は治療を拒んだが、彼は(not 彼が)傷口にそっと触れて…」

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    I'm tempted to say I couldn't choose between those without context. 彼は would come after some other things he's doing, and 彼が makes it sound like it's specifically him and not e.g. her.
    – Sjiveru
    Aug 1, 2017 at 1:41
  • 1
    @Sjiveru あ確かに~・・・ちょっと「が」「は」を使いそうな場面をそれぞれ考えてみました。いつもありがとうございます ^^
    – chocolate
    Aug 1, 2017 at 4:25

That should be #1,


unless you have more special context. is for general ideas like when you say the store at the corner opens at 8 every morning.

is good for telling a happening, or this is basically to be used in a modifying clauses.


This needs our imagination, needing context. It could be comparing with other people, but sounds more like talking about a change in John's life style to our native sense.

Also 1. 彼は傷口にそっと触れる。 2. 彼が傷口にそっと触れる。

We need the context. Why is it in the non-past form? It's sounding poetic. #1 sounds generic. #2 sounds like a happening.

  • I just wanted to make some examples , i didn't pay much attention to the grammar 触れる haha . it should be 触れた . But thanks for the explanation ! It's clear now for me ^•^
    – HimaR13
    Aug 1, 2017 at 4:56

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